Saturday, January 19, 2013

Truly, a chip off the old block

It's every mother's worst nightmare come true: Popeye the Sailor as babysitter.  But, who knows?  Maybe he'll turn out to be good at it after all... For some reason, stories of redemption have flown from my mind.  All I can think of is Rodney Dangerfield in Easy Money and the time Homer Simpson gave up deer for a month.


The opening theme music sets the stage, playing a variation of 'Rock-a-Bye Baby' with loud thumps interspersed throughout at critical points.  This much seems to be true: infinks trumps Popeye.
The cartoon proper: Popeye's opening theme being sung as he pushes a baby carriage back and forth.  There's a sleeping toddler inside of it.  After finishing his theme song, he quietly tiptoes up to the baby.  He listens to the baby's snoring... to emphasize this, his ear turns into a Victrola horn.  Is there any sweeter sound in this world than the sound of a baby sleeping?  Am I right, new parents?
Just then, we hear heavenly harp music... oh, wait.  It's just Harpo.  For some reason, Harpo appeared in a lot of Disney cartoons in the 30s, and not so many Warner Brothers cartoons.  Groucho's in this one; they've got a lot of short clips of it on YouTube, but not the whole thing...   I apologize, I didn't read the whole Wikipedia article.  I forgot about the bubble girl!
Anyway, Popeye tries to get Harpo to stop playing, but to no avail.  The animators gave up trying to animate all the dialogue at this juncture, so Popeye's mouth doesn't move much.  The baby wakes up, which tears it.  Popeye decks Harpo, and Harpo floats heavenward with his harp, of course.  I wonder why the Marx brothers never tried to pull that one off... too many wires involved, I guess.
Back to the baby, who socks Popeye in the jaw twice.  A chip off the old block!  Popeye gives the baby a ukulele... oh boy, now we're gonna see some sh... stuff!  This is what cartoons are all about!  Dancing skeletons and what-not.  The baby tunes its cry to the ukulele, then starts playing what will someday be the hot new hip-hop song.  For now, Popeye's holding his ears, so he takes the ukulele back and tries his own lullabyNot bad!


Now comes the part that's cut out of broadcast television.  The baby's not so interested in Popeye's lullaby, but he is interested in Popeye's pipe, which he starts smoking from.  The baby likes it!  The baby laughs!  The baby blows a giant smoke ring, then a smoke chain with four links.  After that, it gets to be too much, and the baby's eyes turn into rippling pools as it slinks off to sleep... can't argue with results, right?  Popeye takes his pipe back, and we can return to broadcast television safety, confident in the soporific power of ukulele lullabys (wink, wink).
Now comes the part that parents old and new can take issue with.  Popeye tiptoes quietly along but makes the mistake of walking past a loud raucous music school.  He leaves the baby and the carriage on the sidewalk, and runs upstairs to quiet everyone down, one room at a time.  First up: a damn dirty trombone player.  Note to self: don't use the word rusty, for God's sake!  Popeye politely tries to shush the guy, but the player of the trombone doesn't take his eyes off the sheet music!  Rudeness incarnate.  You think a guy could memorize "Pop goes the Weasel," but that's why he's stuck at music school.  Popeye gives the trombone a right good punch at the "Pop!" part of the song, turning the trombone into a... well, the trombone's a wreck, but the trombone player finishes the song with trumpet notes coming out of his ears.  That's more like it!  Sorry, the old high school band rivalries rear their ugly heads once again.
Next up: a douchebag playing a cello.  Popeye doesn't even bother telling the guy to shush this time, and just goes right in for the punch.  As it turns out, Popeye's work is not yet done: the cello starts playing itself!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Time for another punch.  The cello turns into four self-playing violins!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Popeye scares these creatures into the cello case.  On to the next room.  We hear piano music before Popeye gets there, so it must be piano smashing time.
Next scene: yup.  Some guy at a piano.   Spoiler alert: they turn out to be Russian nesting pianos.  After the fourth piano, Popeye decides to shoot the piano player... I mean, punch the piano player.
As it turns out, that was just a warm-up, or a prelude, if you will.  Popeye uses his head to break through to the roof of the music school.  I now betray my ignorance as a non-New Yorker, as I don't know what you call one of those U-shaped buildings.  Turns out the music school is one, and there's music students up the yin-yang, sticking out the windows like so many ripe targets.  Popeye quickly picks them off with the use of a flagpole, then quickly gets himself ground-side back to the baby carriage.  Reminds me of The Paneless Window Washer to a degree.


A perfect time for an act break, as a diagonal line transitions from one scene to the next.  Next scene: Popeye walks by a ship, singing his fool head clean off.  That pipe must've really knocked the baby out good!  Suddenly, the ship's whistle begins to blow.  This may be one of the two or three greatest moral dilemmas Popeye's ever had to face: does Popeye, as a sailor, defer to the ship and maybe just try to get away from the whistle as quickly as possible?  Or does he take a different approach?  Spoiler alert: Different approach it is.  Don't worry, folks, the ship was empty; the Navy was just testing a new remote whistle system.  Popeye returns from the water and dries himself off on the pier like a dog.  None of the flying water droplets wakes up the baby.
Next up: a loud radio.  Popeye sends an electric punch through the air back to the radio station!!!!  How does that song go?  "Welcome to me from out of nowhere?"  A perfect radio song for the time.  Good luck finding that with Google.  To see if we're paying attention, the background skips twice subtly (one and two?), then once not subtly at all as the punch goes from countryside to The Big Apple in a flash, the rate at which electricity normally travels.
Up next: construction on a new building.  Normally, Popeye would be chasing a baby or a sleepwalking Olive Oyl throughout a construction site, but not this time.  Is it just me, or do the construction workers sound a bit like Popeye himself?  Anyway, you might think Popeye will respect the sanctity of a new building, but the dude just sank a giant ship a minute ago.  And so, down quickly comes the whole building, much like the first bridge in Bridge Ahoy!  But at least they try to get some 3D perspective out of it this time.  But I will criticize the animation, as the grid holes in the ground keep scrolling after Popeye's stopped his punch-walking.  Don't worry, all the workers are okay, because they were wearing their parachutes, and mostly because they're just cartoon characters.
Time for the big finale?  No sooner is Popeye walking away from the wreckage he's just created than a cacophony of car horns rises from nearby.  The baby in the carriage is now surrounded on all four sides by stopped traffic, all honking their horns.  The horns stretch from the cars and point right at the baby!  Popeye tries to shush everyone but to no avail.  And even though he's just taken down a whole ship and a moderately-sized skyscraper, apparently there's no force on Earth mightier than New York City auto traffic.  Time for the untidy business of spinach deployment.  And so, with eleven mighty punches, down goes New York City traffic.  Why, it's so quiet, you could hear a ... sorry, Spoiler Alert.


After defeating the cars, Popeye covers the sleeping baby with the blanket.  A diaper pin is revealed at this point, and zoomed in on.  The pin falls to the pavement.  You'll never guess how the baby reacts.  I wonder how audiences at the time reacted to this.  Popeye's at the end of his tether at this point, so he just uses the zipper on the baby's mouth and sings his theme song.  Next time I play the DVDs on the television, I'll seriously consider watching this one.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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